EU complaint lodged against French sex ban for gay blood donors

Gay rights groups said Thursday they had filed a complaint with the European Commission alleging discrimination by France over its ban on blood donations by gay men unless they abstain from sex for a year beforehand.

EU complaint lodged against French sex ban for gay blood donors
Illustration photo: AFP
The move came three years after France lifted a 30-year ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, on condition they practise sexual abstinence for 12 months to guard against HIV transmission.
“This rule, which is still in place, effectively excludes 93.8 percent of gay men from donating blood,” said a joint statement by Stop Homophobie, Mousse, ELCS (Local officials against AIDS), SOS Homophobie and Familles LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender). 
The complaint was lodged on Thursday with the commission in the hope that the policy will be formally recognised as illegally discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. 

France plummets in LGBT-friendliness rankings after homophobic attacksPhoto: AFP

Until July 2016, gay and bisexual men had been completely barred from donating blood under a ban which went into force in 1983 shortly after the HIV virus was discovered.    

It is a sensitive issue in France, where hundreds of people died in the 1980s after HIV-tainted blood was distributed by the national blood transfusion centre.
This law “creates legal uncertainty for LGBT individuals because it makes possible discrimination on the basis of sexual behaviour”, said Etienne Deshoulieres, a lawyer representing both the groups and an individual named in the complaint, who is identified only as “Maxime”.
Earlier this month, Maxime went to give blood at a centre in the Paris suburbs, and while giving his details, said he had been in a relationship for 18 months. 
“The doctor told me that was problematic, that I couldn't give blood,” he told AFP, saying he was advised to make a plasma donation instead, given that he had only had one sexual partner for the past four months. 
“I felt humiliated,” admitted Maxime, a former member of the security forces who has also filed a complaint with the office of France's human rights defender. 
“We are categorised as both 'gay and banned'.”
In response, Stephane Noel, who heads EFS, France's national blood donation service, told AFP it was understandable that a prospective donor “could be disappointed” if turned away.
Doctors working for the service underwent “significant training” in order to explain “with a great deal of sensitivity and respect… why we advise against” certain donations, he said.
Last year, a similar complaint was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on grounds it undermined the fundamental human rights of gay and bisexual blood donors. 
“The case is still pending,” said Patrice Spinosi, the lawyer who filed the complaint.
According to the latest public study in France, opening up blood donations to gay donors in 2016 has not increased the risk of HIV transmission via blood transfusion.

Member comments

  1. I’m gay, long-time married and was never promiscuous (I was never interested in sex without love and commitment). However, I can how tricky this issue must be for managers of blood banks. Not a black-and-white “issue,” regardless of how “discriminatory” it might feel to some of my “brothers.”

  2. Hi FrancoLion, I admire your honesty.
    I have a question though… What’s the difference between you and your husband having penetrative sex, and a husband having penetrative anal sex with his wife? No difference at all according to me. However, he will be allowed to donate blood within 1 year, but you can’t. Ridiculous isn’t it.

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‘l’m gay and this is 2018’: Paris left shocked by another homophobic attack

These are the faces of the victims of a recent spate of homophobic attacks that have shocked Paris and left the gay community fearing more violence. The Mayor Anne Hidalgo has called for collective action.

'l'm gay and this is 2018': Paris left shocked by another homophobic attack
Arnaud Gagnoud (L) was attacked after hugging his male partner in public and Guillaume Mélanie (R) was attacked coming out of a restaurant in central Paris. Photos: Arnaud Gagnoud instagram/ Guillaume
News of the attack spread quickly and the responses of sympathy quickly followed. 
Guillaume Mélanie, President of Urgence Homophobie, a charity that helps members of the LGBT+ community who are in danger in their own country get asylum in France, was the victim of yet another homophobic attack on Tuesday night. 
“Tonight it is my turn,” Mélanie wrote in a tweet with a photo of his battered face. 
“A homophobic attack while leaving a restaurant, broken nose, shocked, blood everywhere. I am gay and we are in 2018” read the rest of the tweet (see below). 
The scene took place on Tuesday evening near the Etienne Marcel Metro station in the 1st arrondissement of the French capital. 
In an interview with BFM TV Mélanie described the area, which neighbours the city's gay district the Marais, as “very gay friendly”. 
“I was leaving the restaurant with friends, we were celebrating the fact that one of our refugees had been granted residency [in France] and as we were leaving, during the time we were saying goodbye we were getting in the way on the path. And a gentleman who must have seen that we were gay, wasn't happy about it.”
“He pushed one of our party to get past, he was told to go 'gently' and that's when he started directing crazy homophobic insults at me.
“He called me a faggot (PD in French) and he gave me a big punch on the nose,” he said. 
Mélanie, who said he saw “hatred in the eyes” of his aggressor, then went to the hospital to be treated for his bruises and broken nose. 
“I think if I had been alone, I would still be in the emergency room,” he said.

After positing his tweet, Mélanie received support from elected officials in the French capital, including Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo who said: “I am sending you all my support Guillaume. As I said a few days ago, after another attack, this series of homophobic acts calls for a collective action.”
The mayor added that she would be inviting gay rights associations to the Hotel de Ville to discuss the issue. 
Actor Arnaud Gagnaud who was attacked after hugging his partner in public in the city's 20th arrondissement. Photo: Arnaud Gagnoud/Instagram
Similarly, Ian Brossat, the deputy mayor in charge of housing, tweeted: “All my support and solidarity dear Guillaume. This homophobic outburst is monstrous.”
Former deputy mayor of Paris, Bruno Julliard also regretted “the proliferation of homophobic attacks, public insults, savage 'outings' and incessant insults on social networks.
“Homophobia is doing very well in 2018. It is no longer bearable, it requires collective action: the police, justice system, schools, associations. Quickly,” he said. 
The incident is one of several homophobic attacks in just a few weeks in the French capital.
These acts have gained a lot of media coverage in France partly because some of the victims havedecided to share their experience with a photograph of their injuries on social media.
On October 6th, a homophobic assault took place in the capital's 19th arrondissement when two men were violently attacked by two people over the fact that they were kissing, with each suffering injuries in the ribs and face.
Then on October 8th, two young women were beaten up in public for the same reason and on October 13th a man was attacked in the 15th arrondissement for wearing make-up.
In his tweet about the incident the victim of this attack said: “I never thought that I would tweet something like this but it doesn't only happen to others: I was a victim of homophobic aggression last night in the 15th arrondissement of Paris because I wore make-up ?

And at the end of September actor Arnaud Gagnoud (see above) hugged his male partner in public and was attacked as a result in the 20th arrondissement.

Mélanie has called on the authorities to respond to the situation.
“We really need justice, we need the Minister of Justice, our complaints have to be investigated and as long as there is this feeling of impunity [for the aggressors] we will get smashed,” he said, adding that he plans to file an official complaint on Wednesday.
Has there been a rise in attacks?
Although it might feel like the number of attacks are on the rise due to the number of victims telling their stories on social media and the amount of coverage they are getting in the press, the number isn't actually going up, according to the latest figures provided by the Paris police headquarters. 
In fact, since the beginning of the year there has been a decrease in homophobic attacks compared to last year.
During the first nine months of 2018, there have been 151 incidents of homophobic aggression in the French capital compared to 171 during the same period in 2017. 
That translates to 11.7 percent fewer attacks.
However gay rights associations have advised caution when looking at the official figures. 
“We must be careful with the figures because a number of victims of homophobic acts do not go to the police,” said the president of gay rights charity SOS Homophobie Joel Deumier. 
“We do not consider that there is necessarily an increase in homophobia, but the violence is not limited to complaints,” he added.
Last year, the association had recorded a 15 percent rise in physical aggression based on the number of people calling their helpline.
And while this year's figures are not yet available, in September the association says it recorded 37 percent more calls compared to last year.